Blog & PodcastDealing with the Climate Crisis

Anthony Day helps you plan a sustainable future with expert guests and reports on green technologies from across a warming world.

 Hello, welcome and a Happy New Year. I’m Anthony Day and this is a special edition of the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 8th January to start off 2021.

If we are to develop a sustainable world we need to know that the products we buy and the services we use are based on sustainable sources. We need to be able to track things back along the supply chain and gather information at every stage. How do we do that? Well I recently spoke to Tyler Chaffo, at Avery Dennison.

Here’s what he told me.

Anthony Day  0:00 

Tyler ChaffoTyler ChaffoMy guest today is Tyler Chaffo manager at global sustainability intelligent labels and RFID at Avery Dennison. Tyler has combined his personal and professional passion for sustainability as manager global sustainability intelligent labels. By combining nearly a decade of experience in RFID, and an educational background focused on supply chains, and integrating sustainable business practices, Tyler has focused on identifying solutions for stakeholders that focus on enabling the circular economy and a transition to a low carbon economy. Tyler, welcome to the sustainable futures report.

Tyler Chaffo  0:44 

Anthony, thanks for having me on. Super excited to be on today.

Anthony Day  0:49 

Okay, well, we were going to talk about a new report, which has recently been commissioned by your company, the New Transparency. But before we get onto that, I'm intrigued by the idea of an intelligent label that must be much more than a piece of sticky paper. Tell me a bit more about intelligent labels.


Tyler Chaffo  1:08 

Absolutely. And, you know, the term intelligent labels is not only our business unit at Avery Dennison, but it's really reflective of kind of the products we make. And it's not to say that all of the labels out there are quote unquote, dumb labels. But to your point, you know, we've kind of moved we've transcended the traditional, just sticky paper labels, if you will. The notion of intelligent labels is basically the ability to create a unique digital identity or digital twin for everyday products. So there's a variety of different ways in which we do that, basically, trigger technologies. It could be UHF RFID, as an example, NFC, a QR code, or a 2D barcode.


Anthony Day  1:50 

Okay, there's a lot of jargon in that. Can you just explain those? QR I think we all recognize. What were the things you mentioned?


Tyler Chaffo  1:58 

Sure, so UHF RFID. If you're not familiar with it, you've certainly encountered it. And you might not have noticed, so UHF RFID is basically widely has widely been adopted globally, in retail and apparel operations. So it's used primarily for inventory accuracy right now, although that's certainly gone up the supply chain with, which I'll speak to, but it's in essence, a way for retailers to quick, quickly and more importantly, accurately, take an inventory count. So it's what we like to refer to as a one to many, so one person counting many items quickly. So I can count several thousand items in mere seconds. NFC, think of it as Apple Pay, Apple Pay, it stands for Near Field Communication. So Uh huh. It's now more of a one to one interaction. So and it's also got some proximity impact, you've got to be very close to products and services to interact with them. A QR code functions the same way. It doesn't have the actual technology, the physical component behind it, it's just you know, printed on on a label. Low energy Bluetooth is more similar to NFC, it's just another different frequency band all kind of fall under our umbrella being trigger agnostic, but basically connecting to a unique digital identity in the cloud. So rather than having a unique, let's say, grey t shirt, you have a specific this grey t shirt that's serialised, so, it is specific, there is only one of them in, in in the world. And I know all this information about which will speak to.


Anthony Day  3:37 

Okay, so you can embed technology into the label, which can then react with some sort of detecting device.


Tyler Chaffo  3:46 

That's perfect. Yep, that I would say that's it. In a nutshell, we're basically putting it on a chip more or less. And that chip then communicates to a variety of four methods. It could be your phone, depending on the technology could be a handheld reader, it could be fixed reader, but yeah, you pretty much nailed it, I would say. All right, well,


Anthony Day  4:05 

Let's move on to the the new transparency, which is the title of the report, which are companies recently commissioned. First of all, I get the impression from reading it that there's a lot more to transparency than traceability. Although traceability is an important part of it. Yeah. Would you agree with that? And can you explain how this links with sustainability?


Tyler Chaffo  4:27 

Absolutely. And, you know, I'm glad you asked this question specifically. I think truck traceability is somewhat foundational to transparency. I look at transparency, more being an umbrella term for traceability, certainly a key component of it. The new transparency really is looking at what are, you know, technologies that are emerging out there to enable transparency and then really providing the definition of what transparency is, and you know, to give a few anecdotal examples, if and if I may, if I'm in the food industry, Knowing my product where it's come from when it expires is pretty much foundational to doing business. You know, I need to know when it expires to prevent food waste, I need to know where it's come from. Because in the US, certainly this year, we've had probably at least half a dozen product recalls on produce, such as romaine lettuce, onions, rather than just, you know, removing the product as affected, most retailers don't have a way to identify products been affected. So they, they throw out all the product category, which obviously amounts, a huge amount of food waste. All of these things combined. Really, its transparency, in my view is kind of synonymous with sustainability. Sustainability is very much a blanket term, I'll say, as you're well aware, you asked 10 people, you'll probably get 10 different answers. And in terms of what sustainability means to them, I think transparency really gives you the, you know, I want I want to say transparency is going to be a really big thing, I think it already is a big thing, which is kind of what the new Transparency Report talks about. But I think it's going to be elevated even further, quite frankly, you know, knowing where your products come from knowing what's in it, knowing what to do with it after it's reached its useful life are all things that are related to sustainability. You know, if I know I have recycled content, if I know it was made ethically and grown ethically, I know how much water was used to make it if I know what you know what it's composed of, and I know how to recycle it at end of life, if it's a if it's packaging, as an example. So these are all things that are quarter sustainability as well as the circular economy.


Anthony Day  6:41 

So you can create a label, which effectively records and documents the lifecycle progress of a product, am I right?


Tyler Chaffo  6:52 

Absolutely. I mean, think of it in terms of a product certificate more or less, you know, we're able to encode on under this digital identity, physical and digital identity, all of the information that I mentioned above. And so, you know, if you need if you're a retailer, and you have certain mandates around using FSC paper, or using cotton that's organic, that adheres to your sustainability commitments, that absolutely would go in as part of this, let's say digital identity. And now we're an hour tracking that. And so that information then, can be used in a number of different ways. It can be used, you know, to communicate to the consumer and say, you know, this is a product that's made sustainably. I mean, as you know, consumers are more and more increasingly willing to not only pay more, but demanding more sustainable products. They're also demanding more transparency. As you know, they they want to know where their products come from, they want to know how it's been made. They want to know what to do with it. After it's reached its useful life. So providing that information on the front end, as well as all the information that happens down the supply chain, ultimately enables the the brands and retailers to make smarter decisions, but also to engage their customers on on deeper levels. 


Anthony Day  8:06 

Okay, well, this is very important, because I'm sure you're aware that there are problems with a lot of products in terms of their origin. I mean, you probably know about manuka honey, which is the premium type of honey. And here in the UK, we apparently sell far more manuka honey, than is actually produced in New Zealand. So it's either adulterated or it's just not what it says it was. There's the problem also with timber, which, you know, there's endangered timber species, and it can be slipped into the supply chain, and people can never be sure exactly where it's coming from. So if we can, if we can develop transparency with a sort of systems, you're describing that that's got to be good for everybody. But the key question is how you can actually assure the integrity because if somebody can falsify a label, then it'll slip into the system, and nobody will know, where are the safeguards?


Tyler Chaffo  9:08 

Yeah. You know, I said, it's a really brilliant question. You know, you asked earlier, you know, what falls under transparency. traceability is part of it. traceability, I would say, kind of, really came about for the grey market diversion counterfeiting, such as we're talking about now, product authentication is a big component as well, for a number of reasons. I mean, only do counterfeit products. You know, they're not made according to brand standards, but generally, they tend to be very much issues in terms of sustainability. They're not made using the same materials. They're not made using the same regulations. So I think it's a critical component to transparency and the ways in which you basically make I'll say, the authentication, it immutable, if you will, is the fact that, you know, it's a you know, it's really you know, today To your questions earlier, I think blockchain is kind of a key component that comes in comes into the frame here. blockchains, obviously, a pretty widely used buzzword these days, you know, probably not quite as much as sustainability but but a lot. When we look at blockchain and transparency, there's a lot of things that happen there. And watch a it's been used for a long time to really prevent fraud for a number reasons. And one of it is it, it's, it's a distributed network. And it's peer to peer meaning, not everyone can access all parts of this, let's say chain, so I have a component on the chain that I provide information on some other party along the value chain provides information, which all kind of adds in this digital record. So that decreases the ability for fraud to really happen there. The other part about it is, it's permissioned. So not everyone has access to this digital record, so that the stakeholders are really the ones that can can do that. You know, that there's also the ability that when you have blockchain, that you basically are, you know, creating something that's, you know, that's a living moving kind of record. But it's something that, you know, it's also verifiable, as well. So for example, you know, it's not something that I can go in and really change access to someone's record down below, because it's not something that I have visibility to, we actually just released a product the other day called cert glow, which is mainly a product authentication tool for the apparel industry. So a consumer, a consumer or retailer can see this product, and know that it's been made authentically. So, you know, I think you're seeing these kind of abilities to, you know, really bridge the gap between, you know, authentic goods and inauthentic goods.


Anthony Day  12:00 

Okay, yes. And you also have a lifecycle assessment tool, how does that fit into the picture?


Unknown Speaker  12:08 

Yeah, so at Avery and Avery Dennison, we have our tool around lifecycle assessment called our green print tool, it's really something that we use across our different business units, some of our business units units for various reasons, but it's really meant to look at the products we make, and really measure their impact as traditional lifecycle assessment tools do. So primarily, depending on the business unit, it can be used to just, you know, measure the material part of it, or it could be the materials and the manufacturing part of it, depending on the products we make, they're really looking at, let's say, I have a hang tag as Pete plastic in it. And now I want to replace it with paper, what is that impact? Now that we have that information, we can then grab that. And because we're creating this digital record, we can actually now add that to the add to the digital record. And then depending on, you know, the brands and retailers, if they have their own product information, you know, their own data for let's say, a Garmin, then that gets added there as well. So now you've got more of a carbon footprint picture. And then on top of that, you can then layer in level event data. So as the government moves to the supply chain, this record gets updated with this level of data. So it really becomes dynamic and not static. So, you know, depending on the origin and destination, you know, obviously, as you know, that can have, obviously, a decent amount of impact on the overall product carbon footprint. So it's really, you know, creating a much more accurate picture around the true carbon footprint of a product versus just, you know, doing estimates at a skew on, which doesn't take into account origin and destination.


Unknown Speaker  13:50 

Okay, now, how does all this fit in with the circular economy?


Tyler Chaffo  13:54 

Yeah, I, you know, the circular economy is, you know, again, is another widely used term these days. And in fact, our number one sustainability goal is about creating products that can enable the circular economy. So it's something that's near and dear to us, I'd say it fits into it in a number of ways. You know, in order to enable a circular economy, it's not just focusing on on, on on recycling, we have to also design out waste, we also have to reduce materials where possible, we also have to design products that can be recycled. So all of these things are kind of paramount. And so transparency can do that. Right. So if I know how the products made, then I know potentially how to recycle it, you know, taking into account the apparel industry now, which is really focusing heavily on on garment recycling. You know, there's a there's a big emphasis between chemical versus mechanical recyclers, and really having to have a deep knowledge around what the products actually made of, you know, some some recyclers can deal with more than modern materials, some can only deal with modern materials. So really knowing what's in the product is critical in order to enable the recyclability of it, we're also seeing it pop up in other ways too, such as the resale market. So if I have a digital identity, and I've transparency in intimate products, we're now able to basically make that information available whenever the customer is done with the product. And so they can scan it, and then it can says, Okay, this product x amount of years old, it has x amount of use, it's worth 10 to $15 on the recent market. And now here's a credit for you to resell it. And now you can go buy a new product. So not only are you enabling the circular economy, but for brands and retailers that choose to adopt this. Now they haven't they haven't returned customer. So in essence, it's really a win win, you know, we're extracting more value out of these materials than just sending it to landfill. And we're really just scratching the surface there.


Anthony Day  15:56 

No, that's great. We don't want to send things the landfill Do we know, you've spoken about perishables about food? You've spoken about the garment trade? This presumably relates equally to major consumer goods, white goods, like domestic appliances, even cars. No,


Tyler Chaffo  16:15 

yeah, yeah. Yeah, I would say, you know, you've seen a lot of examples now happening across different durable and and in really consumer industries on cars is definitely one of them. You know, right now, there's a lot of focus on being able to track postconsumer resins. And so, you know, there's a big, you know, there's a big push on on a lot of different brands, and you know, certainly in, in the consumer packaged goods space, but also in the automotive space that, you know, they're using increased recycled content. And as you know, one of the challenges with really using any kind of recycled product is actually verifying you actually are using recycled product. Obviously, you've probably seen that, you know, there are certain markets where, let's say, plastic bottles are then virgin plastic bottles are ground up and then passed off as, as, you know, post consumer resin, which is not really accurate, because it's never actually been used. And so I think we're starting to see that happen in the automotive industry. There is actually just a German manufacturer this week that announced they're using a blockchain traceability standard to track their content of their recycled plastic. And you know, it's really about mass balance as well, you know, knowing that they're getting in exactly what they're putting out, I think you're going to see that happen more and more. So that brands that have specific goals around, you know, X amount of recycled plastic by you know, 2025 2030, whatever the year is actually being able to verify that's actually happened.


Anthony Day  17:49 

You're storing so much information that it is clearly not just printed on a label. Or we get to the stage where a consumer is going to be able to scan a label with their phone or whatever, and get consumer related information on the product that they're looking at, which could be all sorts of things from whether it's a piece of food, which is within its sell by date, or whether it's a car which has done far more miles than it should have done or things like that.


Tyler Chaffo  18:21 

I would say yes. And if I could say yes, times 1000, then that would be my answer. But yeah, the short answer is absolutely yes. To your point, a lot of that information will be stored digitally. But the important thing to keep in mind here is this connection between the physical and the digital. So there is information we're still printing, but it's mostly the traditional information that that you would see on any kind of label. Now for talking like a 2d barcode, that would actually be a physically printed barcode. You know, that kind of looks like an inkblot. To give you a description. I'm sure you're familiar with QR codes, obviously. But the the consumers now can scan that. So scanning a QR code from their mobile device. NFC is also now NFC is mostly consumer application. So it's a digitally native app on all Android devices. It's now native on all iOS devices after a certain iOS update, which happened a few years ago. Yeah, so now consumers have the ability to even if it's an NFC type tag, to be able to scan it information as well. So you're gonna see that increase as well. You know, when consumers demand more transparency, you'll see more direct consumer applications.


Anthony Day  19:41 

Is that in the shops now or are we waiting expecting to see it in the next few months and years?


Tyler Chaffo  19:47 

I would say it is absolutely in the shops. Now, a lot of the things I talked about are all in the shops. Now in terms of use cases, I'll say you're going to see accelerate, you're also going to see it accelerated. and expand to other segments, you know, you see a lot in apparel, but I think you'll see it more in food, and its ability to really engage your consumer, you know, on a deeper level. And I think it's an opportunity to educate them as well, you know, I look at, you know, let's say, eco labels as an example, there's 400 plus eco labels that exists out there. There's organic, there, you know, there is non GMO there, there's so many that, you know, they're gluten free, there's so many that exists out there. As a consumer, how do you justify and really say, Well, how is one better than the other? You know, and so you're going to see this, this notion of really engaging the consumer more deeply at a product level. And you're going to do that through these interactions that I mentioned.


Anthony Day  20:46 

Well, it's an amazing future, isn't it? Information, information, information.


Tyler Chaffo  20:51 

You know, it really is, you know, an exciting time to be involved in this space, you know, it, there is a lot happening. And, you know, one of the things is COVID-19 really accelerated the need for deeper transparency.


Anthony Day  21:03 

Yeah, well, yes, of course, we haven't spoken about the medical industry at all. And that must be a vast potential market.


Tyler Chaffo  21:11 

Yeah, what you know, even in the food space as well, you know, um, you know, I, I know, this happened in the UK as it did in the US, but, you know, you simultaneously had milk being dumped out while there was food bank lines, miles long. And so there was this inability to marry supply and demand. So not only were we wasting food, but there was food insecure populations. And it was because we didn't have enough transparency into our supply chains to really create this, you know, nexus point. And so it accelerated the need for transparency. And then when you think of PvE shortages, and really knowing where PvE is at, and kind of the lead time to get that back, and then obviously, all of this focus on the vaccine, and the vaccine has to maintain a cold chain process. If it goes above half a degree, and it loses its efficacy. I mean, transparency has been accelerated, I would say.


Anthony Day  22:02 

Well, that's really been a very interesting conversation. Tyler, thank you very much for your time today. Now, the report, The New Transparency is available freely from your website. I will put a link to that on the podcast and remains for me to thank you very much for taking your time to talk to the sustainable futures report today. Thanks.


Tyler Chaffo  22:23 

Absolutely. Every year again, it was my esteemed pleasure. You know, this is really an exciting topic and we're very excited to be at the forefront of it and and and to really be involved moving forward. So thanks for having me on.


Transcribed by

[This transcription was prepared by Avery Dennison’s PR agency, apparently using the software referenced above. I apologise that it is not up to the usual standard achieved when I pay to have interviews transcribed]


Here’s the link to The New Transparency: 

And that's all for this special edition of the Sustainable Futures Report. Before I go, I wonder if you have been listening to the BBC’s Reith lectures. This is an annual series of lectures and this year they are presented by Mark Carney, until recently the Governor of the Bank of England. You can probably find them on the BBC Radio website and of course they are on the BBC Sounds app. There are four lectures and No 4 - Climate Crisis to Real Prosperity - covers sustainability. 

I did say that I was going to take a break in January, but in fact you have another special edition to look forward to. I've had a discussion with four experts on the subject of carbon and that will be available to you on Friday the 22nd - some days earlier for patrons.


Until then I'm Anthony Day, that was a special Sustainable Futures Report and I’ll be back again in two weeks.

Have a good fortnight!


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A weekly podcast and blog brought to you by Anthony Day. A selection of stories and interviews aiming to be sustainable, topical and interesting.
And also, I do address conferences.

Anthony Day

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